House Budget Closer to Obama Than Senate

Posted March 25, 2009 at 12:20pm

House Democrats emerged as the chief defenders of President Barack Obama and his budget Wednesday, unveiling a budget blueprint of their own that hews much more closely to the president’s proposal than one offered by their Senate counterparts.

The budget introduced by House Budget Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.) would trim about $7 billion from nondefense discretionary spending next year, about half of the $15 billion cut proposed by Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).

And Spratt included “reconciliation— rules that would allow legislative heavy lifts like health, energy and education reforms to bypass a Senate filibuster while nominally reducing the deficit.

The Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Labor committees would each have to produce a net $1 billion savings in their jurisdiction by the end of September.

Conrad’s Senate budget blueprint does not contain reconciliation instructions, although he declined to rule out including them in a future House-Senate conference agreement.

Under reconciliation rules, the committees are responsible for coming up with the savings in their jurisdiction and the various pieces would then be combined into one bill. Reconciliation only requires 51 votes to pass the Senate, unlike most legislation that requires 60 to avert a filibuster.

The Ways and Means panel and Energy and Commerce panel share jurisdiction over health care and energy legislation, although fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats said they received assurances that the instructions were intended for health care reform and not for more controversial climate change proposals. The education piece would allow protections for a student loan package.

The two chambers’ budget blueprints also share other features — neither assumes a permanent fix to the alternative minimum tax that Obama proposed, neither assumes an extension of the “Making Work Pay— tax cut that Obama has tied to climate change legislation and both assume that health care reform will have to be fully offset.